Columbiana-trained K-9, handler recognized for rescue work

Published 2:34 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2011

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – A police officer and his cadaver dog trained by a nonprofit organization in Columbiana have been recognized for their rescue work in the aftermath of the April 27 tornadoes.

Morris Police Department Corporal Michael L. Morris and his K-9 partner Rambo received the Law Enforcement Excellence Award from the American Society for Industrial Security’s Birmingham chapter.

The award recognizes Morris “for outstanding demonstration of professional excellence while performing as an officer and K-9 handler.”

In the aftermath of the tornadoes, Morris and Rambo deployed to the most heavily damaged areas of Jefferson County to find those injured or killed in the storms.

“Over the next several days Corporal Morris and K-9 Rambo served countless hours in Fultondale, Pratt City, Pleasant Grove and Concord responding to calls from EMA and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office,” the award reads.

K9 Specialty Services of Alabama trained Morris and Rambo.

“We’re real proud that he’s gotten this award,” said Les Brown, president of K9 Specialty Services of Alabama, which has operated for about 10 years and is based in Columbiana.

The service provides search and rescue and narcotics dogs to local police departments. Dogs and their handlers train weekly, even after certification, Brown said.

“Dogs are kind of like people. They tend to get lazy,” Brown said. “We keep them on top of their game.”

K9 Specialty Services has its own private bloodline of Labradors.

“We can control the breed,” Brown said. “These dogs have an extremely high play drive. If a dog likes to play, you can train it to do anything. We train the dog and the police officer at the same time.”

Dogs are placed with a police officer at six weeks old to begin the bonding process.

“We want that dog in that man’s hip pocket every time he moves,” Brown said.

At the end of a dog’s service career, ownership is transferred to the handler from K9 Specialty Services, Brown said.

The service offers free dogs and training to local police departments.

“If a department meets our criteria and can’t afford a dog, and they are close enough that we can provide logistical support, then we will donate a dog to them,” Brown said.